Saturday dawned bright and reasonably early and after a breakfast of croissants from the downstairs boulangerie and a hilarious Skype with the parents to introduce Letad, we set off in a rented van to the nearest Ikea in Toulon. 

The van…

Thanks to my architect sister, we had a plan and had almost checked everything was in stock.

I had driven enough in France to be able to drive a 6 speed fairly large van and so we were feeling confident all would go well. Off we went.


An hour and a half later with no mishaps we spotted the distinctive blue and yellow warehouse and so parked the van and headed inside. Following the arrows we resisted temptation and soon reached the kitchen department where a very helpful chap sorted us out and between our French and his English, we seemed to have a complete kitchen. 

Decisions were made in a split second… this oven, that induction cooktop, dishwasher, units, tap, hang on a minute… not the shiny tap, the brushed metal tap and so we were done. Less than half an hour and we were moving on to the textile department.

Ikea on a Saturday…

Before we reached the self service section, we followed the example of the French and stopped for a three course lunch. Smoked salmon followed by the obligatory dubious meat balls and a rather good selection of cheese. The navigator indulged in a glass of red wine (only in France) whilst the trusty driver (moi) stayed on the mineral water. 

Very good smoked salmon 
Vin Rouge as enjoyed by the navigator…
Les boulettes de viande. Dodgy looking meatballs.

Through the self serve section where we checked everything carefully off the list, then we collected the rest of the kitchen, loaded up the van and headed back at break neck speed to Antibes. 

We’d decided we needed to buy a new mattress due to continuous bad sleep due to lumps and bumps and so with time being of the essence, with only an hour remaining we made it to Antibes, bought a mattress in five minutes, loaded it into the van and drove back to Valbonne to drop everything off.

Collecting the oven and dishwasher…

It was 5pm. The van was due back at 6pm, Valbonne is a medieval village with no way in and incredible narrow pedestrian streets. We threw caution to the wind and inched our way through into the centre of the village and were getting close to the little house above the boulangerie when we realized we’d reached the end of the rue. We were blocked. No way to go than to reverse and so reverse it was, past a wrought iron fence and a stairway dropping off to one side, millimeters to spare on either side. We reached the corner and breathed a sigh of relief before turning and heading back out again. 

We eventually parked outside the village and carried multiple loads from the van to the house (including a brand new king sized mattress) through the cobbled streets to the bemusement of the French onlookers. I might add that I was carrying the back end of the mattress which was definitely the heavy end!

Getting a very large mattress up the winding staircase of a four hundred year old village house was another challenge altogether but with the help of a friend and a lot of pushing, shoving and a little dislodged plaster, the mattress was finally installed and the nastiest old stained mattress ever seen was removed and dumped by the bins. A good night’s sleep was in order upon a brand new mattress. Absolute bliss!

Absolutely exhausted I suspect not many French women drive vans let alone carry flat pack kitchens and mattresses through medieval villages. 

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